Quebec has been in something of an uproar this week. On Tuesday, the name and legacy of one of the province's most celebrated filmmakers, Claude Jutra, was called into question, with the release of a new biography that made a rather alarming claim.
The following day, the claim tarnishing Jutra's legacy was seemingly substantiated, and the media maelstrom surrounding the issue only grew.
Some, however, may be a bit lost, not knowing who Claude Jutra is, why he's important, and what happened to create such a controversy. With that, here's everything you need to know about the ongoing Claude Jutra scandal.
Who Was Claude Jutra?
Heralded as one of the (if not the) greatest filmmakers in Quebec and Canadian history, Claude Jutra first gained notoriety in the early 1960s for his inaugural film A tout prendre. Winning best picture at the Canadian Film Awards in 1964, the film launched Jutra's career and is cited as a major milestone in Quebecois cinema culture.
Jutra's most popular and critically acclaimed work would be released years later in 1971, Mon oncle Antoine, a film he co-wrote and directed. The film, which centers on the story of a young teenage boy in small-town Quebec prior to the Quiet Revolution, has been named one of the greatest films ever produced in Canada, multiple times, and received a plethora of awards and distinctions following its release.
Several other noteworthy films and projects were created by Jutra in the 70s and 80s, though his career would meet an abrupt end. Diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, Jutra was found dead on November 5, 1986, having committed suicide to seemingly escape his affliction.
Jutra's Cherished Legacy
In the years following his death, Jutra became an icon of the Quebecois and Canadian film industry. To commemorate his work and achievements as a filmmaker, Jutra's name was attached to Québec Cinéma's awards gala (kind of like the Oscars for Quebecois movies) and the Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature Film.
Beyond the realm of entertainment, Jutra's name is also affixed to several streets, parks, and places in Quebec. In Montreal specifically, there is Parc Claude-Jutra in the Plateau and Claude-Jutra Crescent in Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Tremble.
Allegations Of Pedophilia And Child Abuse
On Tuesday, Jutra's idealized legacy was called into question when Yves Lever's biography of the filmmaker was released to the public. Within the biography, Lever states that Jutra "liked boys who were 14 or 15 years old and even younger." Lever has gone on the record to state that he conducted over thirty interviews with victims of Jutra's sexual abuse, ensuring that all claims were substantiated.
But while Lever's biography did begin quite a bit of controversy surrounding Jutra, with Quebec's film board stating they would look into and consider the matter, it wasn't until Wednesday did the floodgates open.
In an interview with La Presse, a man going by the name of Jean (his name was changed to ensure his anonymity) spoke of his experiences with Jutra, stating that the famous filmmaker began a sexual relationship with him at the age of six.
According to Jean's account, Jutra would come to his family house and force the child to engage in sexual acts. As Jean got older, the relationship grew more intense, and by puberty Jutra would enact oral sex upon the young adolescent. You can read the full account here.
Deeply affected by the experience, Jean felt he could not speak out and kept the secret for years. That is, until Lever's biography was published. Since, others have come forward stating that Jutra's taste for young boys was almost common knowledge in the film industry of the era, even though it was seldom talked of.
The After-Effects And Ongoing Story
After the La Presse interview broke, what was once a mild worry turned into an outright denunciation of Jutra's name. Québec Cinéma announced yesterday that their annual awards ceremony would not include the name "Jutra" in any way. Even their main hall (Salle Claude Jutra) will be renamed.
The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television is following suit, planning to rename their "Jutra Award," which is given to the year's best full-length film.
Quebec's Culture Minister Hélène David has already urged all organizations and municipalities to act in kind, and "scrub out" Jutra's name wherever it is found.
Denis Coderre feels the same, stating "you shouldn’t defend the indefensible in any way" and is already planning on removing Jutra's name from the aforementioned Montreal street and park. What name will replace Jutra's name has yet to be declared.
Other streets and parks that bear Jutra's name in Quebec are also scheduled to be renamed.
And so, in just a few short days, the opinion on a man who was once heralded as the king of Quebec cinema has been entirely reversed.
Some may argue that we should only remember Jutra's work, as he was a filmmaker, not a role model. In my opinion, one shared by many, that would do a disservice to the individuals who were deeply emotionally and psychologically affected by Jutra's actions.
But regardless of your thoughts on the removal of Jutra's name, the filmmakers work and legacy will be forever altered, to remembered far differently than before.